Kinchela gate goes to National Museum

Painful past: Elders Michael Welsh, Willie Leslie, Richard Campbell, Manuel Ebsworth, Ian Lowe, Vincent Wenberg, Cecil Bowden and Harold ‘Bluey’ Smith with part of the gate from the Kinchela Boys’ Home, where they spent much of their childhood

Lauren White, Macleay Argus (Tuesday October 2 2012)

EIGHT indigenous elders gathered in West Kempsey last Thursday to give a portion of a symbolic gate to the National Museum of Australia. The remainder of the gate – which was once attached to the front entrance of the Kinchela Boys’ Home, near Kempsey – will go on display at the museum in Canberra.

The gate was donated by local elder Harold ‘Bluey’ Smith, who looked after the gate for 10 years, to two of the museum’s curators, Barbra Paulson and Jay Arthur. Mr Smith and local artist Richard Campbell were accompanied by six other elders from Sydney at the event on Tozer St, which symbolised a form of “cleansing” for the men after years of heartache and injustice.

As children aged between five and 12 years, the men were forcibly housed in the home during Australia’s assimilation era – a time when thousands of indigenous children became part of the stolen generations. Elder Cecil Bowden, from Cowra, said it was essential for people to know about the home’s history.

“It’s been a hidden factor for years that no one knew about, except those who were affected or those in Kempsey Shire,” he said. “It really tells how we were treated and what we went through.”

Vincent Wenberg, also from Narooma, agreed and said it was an important day for all indigenous
people who were subjected to a discriminatory system.

“I was 12 years old when I went to that home,” he said. “The last time I touched this gate was 1948.

“It’s a symbol of when the government took us away from our families and kept us in the home.”

Elder Manuel Ebsworth from Bourke was five years old when he was taken to Kinchela.

“It was a very cruel place. This gate is very emotional for us,” he said.

Museum exhibition curator Jay Arthur said the remainder of the gate was an important aspect of Australia’s history.

“As long as we have the gate displayed for people to see – they can be educated about it,” she said.

“We also want all of the men as well as their families and friends to come and see the gate whenever they like.”

For more information about the gate’s exhibition, visit the National Museum’s website at:

Return to top »